While meeting with an association executive today, she mentioned that her team had difficulties working with their volunteers. She said the staff often acted like the volunteers worked for them and they weren’t making good choices on how interact with them. It made me wonder what has been lost when it comes to member service over the last 20 years.
I have been fortunate enough to work for associations where we truly “served” our members and volunteers. Fortunately, many of our association customers still have an attitude of service to their members. However, I have also seen and experienced organizations who do not serve their top volunteers or the general membership.
I have had personal experiences with an association who I used to volunteer a lot of my time, tell me this year that they don’t have time to post free programs that I was putting together for them at no cost, they were unable to help with set up or be of any assistance for meetings being held at their office for the larger membership….a meeting I was asked to arrange and promote. This has only changed my attitude from committed and engaged (bringing others to meeting and getting others to get involved) to being disengaged and looking to other organizations where I can feel I make a difference.
Associations have lots of competition today. LinkedIn groups can easily be started, other organizations are available to join , they can get CE from for profit and/or other nonprofit organizations and technology has a low cost of entry for new products and services to be available.
Today more than ever, organizations need to train their employees on the basics of customer service and how to create member loyalty. A focus on member loyalty can greatly advance an organization. With any business, I feel it is important to make your customers (members) feel they are important.
Following are a few things to consider.
1) Be a good listener – take time to really listen to your members, especially those that are the most engaged.
2) Identify and anticipate needs – Your members don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems.
3) Make your volunteers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. I recall being involved with an organization several years ago where I walked into the office, felt welcomed and had the support of the staff. It truly made a difference to my commitment to the organization.
4) Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, own it and apologize. It’s easy and can make a huge difference. Deal with problems immediately. Value complaints as much as we dislike it. Your most passionate volunteers will provide feedback that can give you the opportunity to improve if you listen and act.
5) Give more than expected. The future of all companies and associations lies in keeping customers happy.
Associations need to think of ways to elevate yourselves:
- What can your constituents get from you that they can’t get elsewhere?
- What do you do to thank your members for supporting your organization?
- What can you do to make your top volunteers feel supported and ensure they stay engaged?
Your members don’t have to participate in your organization and many times the work they are doing for you is not their core competency.
Create a culture of customer service and watch your organization thrive!